Alan Curbishley was delighted to see two youngsters from the Academy get some of the spotlight on Wednesday night although Carling Cup success owed much to the experience of Lee Bowyer.
Zavon Hines and Kyel Reid, 19 and 20 respectively, have both enjoyed tremendous summer campaigns with the club and rewarded the manager's faith with plenty of bright running and a goal apiece to round out the 4-1 extra-time defeat of Macclesfield, who had to play with ten men for the final 30 minutes. Those in the know were not surprised by their impact after Hines struck five goals in pre-season while Reid really shone on the pre-season tour of North America - not least with a terrific goal against Columbus Crew.
The manager went for extra attacking impetus when Valon Behrami went off with a facial injury rather than opt for another talented youngster in the shape of England Under-19 defender Jordan Spence. He said: "I had a decision to make. I put a couple of kids out there because I felt it was the right time. When Behrami came off, I could have put Jordan on at full-back and left it as it was or give Zav a game. I plumped for Zav. I am pleased he got his goal and also Reidy. They have all acquitted themselves really well."
Curbishley, who also gave Freddie Sears only his second senior start, admitted he was relieved to see his side come through thanks to Bowyer's equaliser and a decisive second from Carlton Cole. The League Cup is notorious for giantkilling scalps with more than a few affecting the team in claret and blue in years gone by. He added: "We obviously turned it into quite a tricky cup tie with Macclesfield scoring early and then getting behind the ball. They asked us to break them down and we couldn't.
"It became more and more frustrating for everybody but I was confident we were going to get back into it. It was just a question of when but it dragged on a bit." The manager added that patience was key for his team to securing a place in Saturday lunchtime's third-round draw. "We were playing to their strengths [in the first half] as opposed to us getting hold of it and trying to break them down. I think in the second half we did that a bit better.
"I was expecting obviously more. I didn't expect to be trailing against Macclesfield but sometimes this happens and the one thing about it is you can't hide." That attitude was summed up by the experienced Bowyer, who headed the all-important equaliser as the game entered its closing stages and set the tone for the youngsters to finish the job. "You have just got to get on with it and I think Bowyer obviously epitomised that. He kept going and brought us back into the game."